“What is truth? What is falsehood? Whatever gives wings to men, whatever produces great works and great souls and lifts up a man’s height above the earth – that’s true. Whatever clips off man’s wings – that’s false.” (Nikos Kazantzakis, The Last Temptation of Christ)


The body of St Francis Xavier which miraculously defied the laws of nature, of turning into dust, lies till this day in a silver casket in the Church of Bom Jesus Basilica in Goa, India. The exposition of the blessed relics which is held every 10 years will be held this November from 22nd of November 2014 till 4th of January 2015, which will be the 17th public Exposition of the Sacred Relics of the Saint. The theme for this Exposition is “Faith Creates Communion, Strengthens Family, Commissions to Renew the Society”.

Old Goa
Photo: Zuzana Zwiebel

“If I were fire, I would burn; if I were a woodcutter, I would strike. But I am a heart, and I love.” (Nikos Kazantzakis, The Last Temptation of Christ)


St.Francis Xavier, born Francisco de Jasso y Azpilicueta, on 7th April 1506 was the sixth and last child born to Dr. Joao de Xavier and Maria d’Aspilcueta at Xavier castle, Navarra (now part of Spain). He was a Roman Catholic missionary who preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the people of Asia and was the co-founder of the Society of Jesus. Francis Xavier was beatified by Pope Paul V on 25th October 1619, and was canonized by Pope Gregory XV on 22nd March 1622. Pope Pius XI proclaimed him the “Patron of Catholic Missions”. His feast is celebrated on 3rd December.

Old Goa
Photo: Zuzana Zwiebel

“Life on earth means: the sprouting of wings.” (Nikos Kazantzakis, The Last Temptation of Christ)


Francis Xavier was the first Jesuit missionary. Francis devoted much of his life to missions in Asia, after being requested by King John III of Portugal to travel to Portuguese India, where the king believed that Christian values were eroding among the Portuguese. Francis Xavier moved mainly in four centers: Malacca, Amboina and Ternate, Japan, and China. His growing information about new places indicated to him that he had to go to what he understood were centers of influence for the whole region. China loomed large from his days in India. Japan was particularly attractive because of its culture. For him, these areas were interconnected; they could not be evangelized separately.

St.Francis Xavier and the Missions
Voyages of St. Francis Xavier

“When everyone drowns and I’m the only one to escape, God is protecting me. When everyone else is saved and I’m the only one to drown, God is protecting me then too.” (Nikos Kazantzakis, The Last Temptation of Christ)


When Francis died in the island of Sancian in 1552, his Chinese friend Antonio buried him there in a wooden coffin as they used to do in China. Two layers of quicklime were added in order to accelerate the process of corruption of the body which would facilitate the transfer of his bones to Goa, which was a request of Francis himself. The body exhumed to on 17th February 1553 to check if the bones could be taken to Malacca and then Goa. To the astonishment of all it was noticed that after two and a half months in a coffin full of lime the body was as fresh as when it was buried. They realized that it was an extraordinary phenomenon. A miracle had taken place through Francis Xavier who was accepted as a saint in his life itself.

Old Goa
Photo: Zuzana Zwiebel

“Per tuam crucem, salva nos, Christe Redemptor: qui mortem nostram moriendo destruxisti, et vitam resurgendo reparasti.Miserere nostri,Iesu benigne, qui clementer passus es in cruce pro nobis et vitam resurgendo reparasti.” (Cristóbal de Morales)

The body in the coffin was then taken to Malacca by ship. There the body was buried without a coffin. When the body was exhumed once again in the night of August 15th 1553 the body was fresh as well as the priestly vestment. The body was then shipped to Goa. Fr. Melchior, Provincal of the Jesuits, sailed in the direction of the ship Santa Cruz that was carrying the body. It was at Bhatkal that Santa Cruz ship was spotted which sailed for Goa surrounded by several other ships. There was a lot of joy and solemnity among the faithful. There were decorations everywhere in Old Goa and Cannons from all the forts fired continuously to welcome the body which reached Ribandar in the night of 14th March 1554 and was taken to Church of Ajuda at Ribandar. It was taken to the church of S. Paulo on 16th March 1554 at the sound of the bells of nearly 40 churches from Old Goa. The body was exposed for the public veneration for three days and was buried on the fourth day near the main altar of S. Paulo church.

Photo: Zuzana Zwiebel

“Lord, grant me the strength to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” (Francis of Assisi)

When this church was demolished in 1560, the body was exhumed and was kept in the rector’s room and later in the room of the novice master, in the chapel of S. Tome, in the sacristy and finally it was taken to the Casa Professa do Bom Jesus, the residential wing of Bom Jesus Basilica. Several pieces of the body of the saint have been distributed throughout the world over the years by faithful. His body has defied the normal destiny of the mortals throughout the centuries and has not yet crumbled into dust.

Photo: Zuzana Zwiebel

You will, Judas, my brother. God will give you the strength, as much as you lack, because it is necessary; it is necessary for me to be killed and for you to betray me. We two must save the world. Help me.” Judas bowed his head. After a moment he asked, “If you had to betray your master, would you do it?” Jesus reflected for a long time. Finally he said, “No, I’m afraid I wouldn’t be able to. That is why God pitied me and gave me the easier task: to be crucified.” (Nikos Kazantzakis, The Last Temptation of Christ)

Text: Zuzana Zwiebel inspired by sfxexposition2014.com, where you can find more information.

ART OF TRAVEL: www.shaktitrails.com

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